Guide

Preparing Children to Thrive: Standards for Social and Emotional Learning Practices in School-Age Settings

By Poonam Borah, Michael Conn, Karen Pittman from The Weikart Center, Forum for Youth Investment

This guide will introduce readers to the original SEL Challenge; explore the standards, indicators, and curriculum features of SEL; and present case narratives to illustrate the concepts in practical ways.

Preparing Children to Thrive: Standards for Social and Emotional Learning Practices in School-Age Settings

Preparing Children to Thrive: Standards for Social and Emotional Learning Practices in School-Age Settings

Preparing Children to Thrive: Standards for Social and Emotional Learning Practices in School-Age Settings is designed to help organizational and program leaders see clearly what social and emotional learning (SEL) among children (ages 5-13) would look like and feel like in real program settings, and to draw attention to promising adult practices for building SEL skills among children, along with curriculum features at an organizational level that support implementation of SEL programs.

This guide, and the study that led to it, were designed to complement a previous effort, Preparing Youth to Thrive (2016), which focused on developing SEL standards and indicators for adolescents from the ground up with the help of eight exemplary programs around the country.1 We developed SEL concepts in six broad domains: Emotion Management, Empathy, Teamwork, Initiative, Responsibility, and Problem Solving.

The release of Preparing Youth to Thrive prompted a critical question: can the standards and indicators that were developed for adolescents be used in work with younger children? The answer was “yes,” with one important caveat and two adaptations:

  • Caveat: Program staff need to understand the developmental differences between children and adolescents, the needs of the children involved, and the resources available locally to most effectively apply the standards and indicators skillfully;

  • Adaptations: We added an indicator under Teamwork for “play time,” to underscore the importance of unstructured play among younger children. We also adapted the wording of one of the curriculum features to better mesh with the developmental stage of childhood (vs. adolescence).

Overall, the feedback from staff in the seventeen sites associated with Bright Futures, a 21st Century Community Learning Center housed within Eastern Michigan University’s Institute for the Study of Children, Families, and Communities, affirmed that the standards and indicators developed in the previous work are broadly relevant to both children and adolescents, with specific applications during different developmental stages and across varying settings.

Learn more about the best practices for social and emotional learning.

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